Lit­tle helper

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Re­mem­ber when chores were fun?

Yeah, me nei­ther. Ac­tu­ally, that’s not quite true. As a kid, I re­mem­ber beg­ging my mom to let me take over vac­u­um­ing du­ties. There is some­thing oddly sat­is­fy­ing about tak­ing some­thing dirty and mak­ing it clean, you know?

Be­ing as I’ve al­ways been a bit of a teacher’s (or par­ent’s) pet, I loved the metaphor­i­cal round of ap­plause my par­ents would give me for pitch­ing in around the house. My tired mom and dad acted like I’d handed over enough gold to fund their early re­tire­ment, and I liked be­ing a helper. Mom didn’t call me “lit­tle mother” — for all the squeal­ing I did on my sis­ter — for noth­ing.

Twenty years later, my son is fol­low­ing in my foot­steps. Oliver goes pos­i­tively crazy when he sees the vac­uum — which, I guess, is good? Early in par­ent­hood, a cousin ad­vised me not to make our house a “quiet zone” for the baby. Her own daugh­ters would sleep through a nu­clear apoca­lypse, it seems, be­cause she and her hus­band re­fused to muf­fle sounds at nap time. They weren’t in­ten­tion­ally slam­ming cab­i­nets or any­thing, but the mur­mur of a tele­vi­sion or whir of ap­pli­ances were just par for the course. The hum of daily life.

That was wise ad­vice. When Ol­lie came home, we planted his bassinet in the mid­dle of the liv­ing room while we made phone calls, caught up on fa­vorite TV shows and an­swered emails dur­ing naps. The im­pulse to shush every­one and ev­ery­thing to make sure a sleep­ing baby stays that way is hard to deny, but it was smart to get Oliver used to house­hold noises. It lets us ac­tu­ally re­main func­tion­ing mem­bers of said house­hold.

So he paid no at­ten­tion to the vac­uum in the early days. I didn’t want him to be afraid of it, opt­ing to keep the suc­tion hose far away from cu­ri­ous hands. But I never imag­ined he would ac­tu­ally . . . like it. A big, loud, mon­ster-like ma­chine suck­ing up dust, dirt and Mommy’s Oreo crumbs? Seems strange, but it’s true.

From my years of man­ning the vac­uum at home with my par­ents, my des­ig­nated weekly chore, I’m now mildly ob­sessed with clean floors. It doesn’t help that we in­stalled beige car­pet af­ter move-in. Ev­ery shred­ded leaf, speck of lint and blade of grass might as well be painted neon; I see it all with ra­zor-sharp vi­sion. And it makes me crazy.

So I vac­uum a lot. The sink may be full of dishes, a month’s worth of mail dropped in the hall­way, a thou­sand toy blocks cre­at­ing a haz­ard on the love seat — but my floors? My floors are clean. It’s the one shred of dig­nity I have re­main­ing.

As soon as Oliver sees me head­ing to­ward the hall closet, he knows what’s about to hap­pen — and loses his baby mind. He claps. He hops up and down. He fol­lows so close be­hind me that I can’t phys­i­cally open the closet door, then reaches for the vac­uum be­fore I can.

My tod­dler clam­ors so fu­ri­ously for the vac­uum that I can’t ac­tu­ally vac­uum. At all. My hus­band tries to ap­pease him by hand­ing snacks over while Ol­lie is im­pris­oned in his high chair, but noth­ing dis­tracts him from his beloved ma­chine.

If he is free to move about, Oliver will scram­ble be­hind and try to yank the cord from the wall or grab the suc­tion hose. He will plant him­self di­rectly in my path, laugh­ing like a ma­niac while im­ped­ing my progress.

I don’t know if it’s the cords, the noise, the power . . . or all of the above. What­ever it is, Oliver can’t get enough.

When left to my own de­vices, I can clean the down­stairs in 15 min­utes. With Oliver there, I’m lucky to get it done at all. Spencer tries tak­ing him out­side, tak­ing him up­stairs, dis­tract­ing him with any num­ber of toys . . . but noth­ing works. He fights out of Spencer’s arms un­til he’s achieved free­dom, and then he’s back.

Thing is, Oliver is so clearly over­joyed at the sight of the vac­uum that I feel like a mon­ster keep­ing them apart. Like Calvin and Hobbes, Char­lie Brown and Li­nus, Ol­lie sees his pal as the yin to his yang. Same goes for the spot-cleaner. Oh, friends, the sheer joy of a 1-year-old “help­ing” while his fa­ther at­tempts to clean cof­fee stains from our liv­ing room car­pet. Oliver got ahold of a spare brush from the lit­tle wet vac and was mim­ick­ing Spencer’s move­ments — and do­ing a pretty thor­ough job, if I may say so.

Let’s just hope his en­thu­si­asm con­tin­ues a decade from now.

We need all the help we can get.

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